Book Review: Foundations of Python Network Programming
I received a review copy of Brandon Rhodes’ Foundations of Python Network Programming from Apress a few weeks ago, but had to wait to read it until my own book was complete. I finished reading it this weekend, and it was worth the wait.
Inspired by Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes’ review short-cuts, this is my review for the impatient reader.
Why I picked it up: I know Brandon through PyATL and was confident that his years of experience would ensure that he put out a high quality book. He more than met my expectations.
Why I finished it: The conversational tone made it easy to zip through the sections covering material I was familiar with, saving more time to study the rest more completely.
I’d give it to: Any Python programmer who wants a better understanding of the fundamentals of network programming. Even an experienced Python programmer will learn a few new tricks from the sections covering more modern tools like ZeroMQ and paramiko.
This is the second edition of Foundations of Python Network Programming. The first edition by John Goerzen was released in 2004, and while a lot has changed in the way we use computer networks since then the fundamentals remain constant. Brandon Rhodes has improved the second edition by cleaning up the old examples that are still relevant, updating or replacing the ones that became obsolete, and adding new material. The results benefit from Brandon’s high level of expertise and depth of knowledge in networking.
The book covers a broad range of topics, and is organized so that each section builds on the knowledge of the previous chapters. The discussions move from from raw TCP and UDP to encryption with TSL, and then on to application protocols like HTTP, SMTP, POP, IMAP, and ssh. Each section explains not just how to do a task, but why doing it that way works.
The examples in the book are clear and illustrate the concepts described in the text. There are a few places where the exposition would benefit from a diagram or two (especially in the description of TCP message windows), but the explanation given does stand on its own.
Every chapter of Foundations of Python Network Programming is filled with practical advice. After establishing the fundamentals of networking in the first few chapters, the book goes on to cover architectural issues that come up when creating client server applications. The different uses for RPC and message queue architectures are covered, as well binary versus text wire protocols. The latter chapters, which cover higher level protocols, discuss best-of-breed libraries, removing much of the guesswork for Python programmers choosing tools for new projects.
I recommend Foundations of Python Network Programming for programmers who want to move beyond the usual web framework-based development paradigm to learn more about what is going on behind the scenes. It is concise, but written in a conversational style that makes it easy to read. After reading the book, you will have a good grounding in the fundamentals of networking and be introduced to many more complex subjects. Brandon includes a number of references to other sources of more information, as well, for readers who want to go beyond the fundamentals covered here.